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This is a special place to me because it is in my neighborhood and is an oasis in a busy, growing city. The park is home to a wide variety of birds, trees, and native plants. The park hosts multiple activities including bird walks, bicycle races, outdoor concerts, and an annual box car derby. The park is a peaceful place with well marked walking/running trails and thoughtfully placed benches for viewing the city and surrounding areas.
Annapolis, Maryland’s capital city, is on Chesapeake Bay. Its historic district includes 18th-century brick houses and the domed 1700s Maryland State House. On Church Circle, the Romanesque-style St. Anne’s Episcopal Church has Tiffany glass windows and a historic cemetery. The sprawling waterfront grounds of the United States Naval Academy feature beaux arts architecture, monuments and a naval history museum.
This place is special to me because I grew up there, and have many fun memories of riding my bike down the crazy steep hills to the beach, and walking on the pier, the Sandcastle competitions, and the smell of the ocean. This little seaside town has changed a LOT since I lived there, but my favorite places remain the same. The museum was originally a train station, and trains still come along the rails along the beach. There's a little bit of Surrey snuck in there too, since they have an off-leash doggy beach that my dogs adore!
Summer time in northern Michigan is full of adventure! I love crossing the Mighty Mac to go hiking in the Upper Peninsula (officially called The U.P.) or cruising on a ferry to Mackinac Island. The island does not allow vehicles, but the best way to explore is on bike or horse carriage. Plus all the water activities provide plenty of fun. The winters are long and the summers are short..so spending as much time on the Great Lakes is my favorite place!
This place is special to me because two of my great-grandparents came to the United States from Poland (one as a child and one as a young adult). [Correction: Mom says I forgot one, so make that three!] I have always appreciated Polish food and culture. At a prior residence, we lived only two blocks from a Polish hall, where I would occasionally assist the volunteers making pierogi for special events. Fortunately, we settled in an area where Polish culture abounds. If you cannot visit such a place, I highly recommend that you bring the fun to your home, i.e. learn how to play the accordion. It's fun, catchy and hard to put down once you start playing! Trust me.
I went to Savannah College of Art and Design years ago (earned my BFA in Computer Art in 1999!) in historic downtown Savannah, Georgia; during my four years there I fell in love with the South. Upon my return to southern California after graduation, Georgia remained as a murmur in the back of my mind; eventually, in 2012 my husband Josh and I moved our family to a rural area just outside the city.
Coming back to the city as a family opened our world up to all kinds of new adventures seen through the eyes of our hilarious kids, and I wanted to pull together all my very best don't miss places for you to have a fun family vacation in a spot that skews very much towards "visit these historic (translation: usually boring for kids) places". If you're a history buff, this map could be a great help in compromising! Visit a historical landmark, then throw in one of these kid-friendly locations to give them a brain break!
Here's my list of do not miss places to take your kids in Savannah, from left to right on this map:
1) City Market - Pizza at Vinnie Van GoGos, Ice Cream at Savannah Candy Kitchen. Because pizza and ice cream. Afterward, if it's a warm day advance token to Ellis Square and let the kids play in the splash pad that's technically a fountain (if it's flat and people run through it every day I'm sorry you built yourself a splash pad).
2) Free River Ferry Ride on River Street - If you take the ramp down to River Street at City Hall (I believe there's a Hyatt hotel right next to it), you can hop on the river ferry and take a ride on the Savannah River for free. Ride across the river during the holidays and you can see the gingerbread house display they put up every year in the hotel lobby across the way!
3) Savannah Bee Company store on Broughton Street - You get to visit the honey tasting bar (which will blow your mind), and your kids will get to play in what's basically a beehive themed fort. It's amazing.
4) Leopold's on Broughton Street - because ICE CREAM.
5) Forsyth Park - Travel down Bull Street from City Hall, and you'll run right into Forsyth Park. The last Saturday in April is Savannah College of Art and Design's Sidewalk Arts Festival, and they let kids participate in drawing on a sidewalk square with chalk for free!
6) "The Globe" at Derenne and White Bluff Road (Southside Savannah) - Every time we drive past this globe, my daughter Joy and I play a game where we try to guess what's inside it and what we would do if that's what was in there. (e.g. - "What if it was full of blue and green M&Ms?" "I would eat them all but I would share with you.")
7) Exotic Underworlds pet store (Southside Savannah) - this pet store is like a tiny aquarium. Tons of really cool fish and reptiles to see, and a huge tortoise that walks around free through the store.
8) Chatham County Aquatic Center (Southside Savannah) - this is the city's public pool, and it's super affordable to go play for a couple of hours in their gloriously heated pool. (Usually heated to around 88 degrees.)
9) Oatland Island - If you only take your kids to one place on this list, Oatland Island should be it. Like a zoo, this animal rehabilitation center has a long trail through the woods where your kids will see animals like a mountain lion, alligators, deer, foxes, and wolves. Phil's favorite exhibit for AGES was the wolves - if you're a detective you can find our Calvert family board on the wooden walkway near the wolf building.
10) UGA Marine Science Center and Aquarium - This isn't a full-size aquarium like the huge one in Atlanta, but there's still tons of great exhibits, a touch tank, and a beautiful nature trail outside. We discovered it when we received tickets to go during the library's summer reading program a few years back!
11) Captain Mike's Dolphin Adventure: There are a few different dolphin tours out towards Tybee Island in Savannah, but this is the one we've been on and can recommend. We went during the solar eclipse a couple of years ago and it was super fun!
12) The Crab Shack on Tybee Island is one of my happy places. There's nothing better than sitting in their outdoor area on the dock, looking out at the wetlands, eating a ridiculous pile of seafood. Wait, the only thing better is seeing random raccoons in the trees above and the cats that wander around outside helping to keep the pests away. And did I mention they have a gator pit? Full of live gators? THAT YOU CAN FEED FOR $2???
13) Fish Art Gift Shop - as you head out towards Tybee Island Lighthouse on Highway 80, you can't miss this shop. The outside of it is literally COVERED with all kinds of interesting sculptures for sale. Last time we were there we saw a life-size metal great white shark sculpture with a mannequin leg hanging out of its mouth. Inside, you'll find an entire section of gems, minerals, and rocks, and your kids will keep you there for an hour or more while they try to decide what they're bringing home.
14) Tybee Island Lighthouse - Don't skimp. Pay the money to walk up into the lighthouse. You won't regret it.
15) Marine Science Center on Tybee Island - If you're going to the beach on Tybee, this is an easy stop to make and another super cool and educational place to check out!
16) The Sandbox Children's Museum (Hilton Head Island, South Carolina) - I included two locations in South Carolina because it's literally RIGHT THERE. And we went there a ton when we lived there. Plan to make a day of it, and let your kids explore the whole place on their time. If you do, make sure to bring a sack lunch! No restaurant or vending machines, but they do have picnic tables out in front. The age range on this museum I think tops out at about 7-8 years old, but I have heard they have plans to expand in the future to make more exhibits for older kids.
17) And if you're driving to Hilton Head Island, make a stop at Coligny Beach! After years of taking our family to Tybee, once I went to Coligny that quickly became our beach of choice for the free parking and the splash pad to rinse off in.
Want to visit these places in person? I created a Google map to share - you'll find exact locations of all these spots along with gobs of other gems that couldn't quite fit in my layout! Click here for more information on these places: http://bit.ly/SAVwithKidsMap
This place is special to me because I have called it home for the last 12 years, and the sites and sounds have been profoundly influential to me as an artist. The city can be equal parts gritty and glitzy, and I have found the unique landscape and music culture has shaped my illustration style over my time as a Nashvillian. Even if you are not a country music fan, you can find something to love in this Southern jewel, including museums, great universities, historical sites, sports, and world class dining and drinking. Side note: If you are planning a destination bachelorette party, I hear Austin is really nice. ;)